In the early '90s, Anna Chlumsky was one of the most recognizable child stars in America. Her turn as the unforgettably named Vada Sultenfuss in 'My Girl' had wowed critics and won the hearts of filmgoers (don't even pretend you weren't choking back tears during that funeral scene). And then, suddenly, she just disappeared.

But don't worry: Chlumsky did not become another washed-up child-star casualty of the Hollywood machine. Instead, she gave up acting to focus on her education, earning a degree in International Relations from the prestigious University of Chicago before going on to a career in book publishing.

Thankfully for fans, the lure of the screen was too much for Anna to ignore, and the now 28-year-old is back on the big screen as a sultry, seductive, very un-Vada-like State Department assistant in the BBC political satire 'In the Loop.' In an exclusive interview, Anna reveals why she's giving acting another go, reminisces about 'My Girl' ... and shares her favorite James Gandolfini story.

5 Questions With the Former Child Star


In the early '90s, Anna Chlumsky was one of the most recognizable child stars in America. Her turn as the unforgettably named Vada Sultenfuss in 'My Girl' had wowed critics and won the hearts of filmgoers (don't even pretend you weren't choking back tears during that funeral scene). And then, suddenly, she just disappeared.

But don't worry: Chlumsky did not become another washed-up child-star casualty of the Hollywood machine. Instead, she gave up acting to focus on her education, earning a degree in International Relations from the prestigious University of Chicago before going on to a career in book publishing.

Thankfully for fans, the lure of the screen was too much for Anna to ignore, and the now 28-year-old is back on the big screen as a sultry, seductive, very un-Vada-like State Department assistant in the BBC political satire 'In the Loop.' In an exclusive interview, Anna reveals why she's giving acting another go, reminisces about 'My Girl' ... and shares her favorite James Gandolfini story. -- By Tom DiChiara

1. You just returned to movies after a long time away. What got you back into acting?
About five years ago I was working at Harper Collins Publishers -- I was an editorial assistant for science fiction and fantasy -- and that's a very fun job, in my opinion. I love words, and I love goblins and princesses, so it was a blast. However, I was still crying everyday because I was very unhappy. And I think when you go through that, you kind of have to take inventory of all the signs that the universe or God or whoever you want to call it [is giving you]. And I just realized one day that I need to try this again, because I couldn't let go of it. The little Jiminy Cricket that had been on my shoulder for so many years, you know, through college and for those first two years in New York, was very loud and unignorable, telling me I had to get back in -- so I did! I trained over a summer at the Atlantic [Theater], and I never looked back. I did tons of theater, and I still love to do that as well and, you know, I just kind of started beating the pavement again. And here we are five years later!

2. And what was it that drew you to 'In the Loop' specifically?
Oh, gosh! I got the breakdown and went out for the audition, and when I saw BBC Films, my heart leapt a little because I have this kind of irrational fascination with Masterpiece Theater and BBC [laughs]. My father brought me up on [Hercule] Poirot mysteries and Inspector Morris and Dickens miniseries, and I always thought that was unreachable for me because they would very rarely use Americans. So when I saw that I was actually auditioning for something that was put out by the BBC, I was like, "Oh my goodness!" So, that was the first thing that I was excited about. And then the second thing is it was about somebody in the State Department, and when I went to college at the University of Chicago I studied international -- well it was international studies -- but ultimately that's international relations and, you know, I was like 10 minutes away from taking my Foreign Service Exam to work at the State Department. That was the track I was going to go on. Then I was looking at the material and I was like, do I really want to do this? [Laughs] But I thought it was just amazing that I was finally, after all these years, going to put some of my academics to work.


'In the Loop' showtimes & tickets


3. A lot of people probably still see you as Vada Sultenfuss from 'My Girl,' but Liza, your character from 'In the Loop,' is a far cry from Vada. Were you glad to show a more grown-up side?
I didn't really compare her with Vada at all, just considering that I've done a lot since then -- but [Liza] was certainly different than anybody I had played before. In my opinion, she was extremely ambitious, which is fun to play just by itself, but also the question was: Does she believe in anything other than just her making it to the top? And I think the answer is no. I think she would love to do the right thing, or do her job well, and I think she does do her job well ... But in the end she would rather keep her career safe than really kind of sacrifice her career for anything else.

4. Do you have a favorite 'My Girl' scene? When I was a little kid, the scene where you were crying over Macaulay Culkin just got me every time.
Yeah, man! And I understand. It's so hard to watch that. What is my favorite scene from 'My Girl'? I haven't watched it in so long. Oh, the bumper cars! I like the bumper car scene, yeah. Now that I can see her as a kid and not as me, I feel like that is how a lot of kids feel when their dad finds someone else [laughs]. So, yeah, that's a good scene.

5. You got to work with James Gandolfini on 'In the Loop' -- any great "Tony Soprano" stories?
There was something that was really great. We were all out one night in London and I was, you know, I was doing this thing where I was actually listening to the voice inside my head telling me to go home [laughs]. It's a new thing we do as grown-ups, so I had this voice saying: "Go home, Anna. It's time to go home." And everybody kept going out, so I was like: "Guys I'm going. Sorry, I'm going." So, Jim, being a gentleman, called me cab -- I mean, not by the phone. He hailed a cab for me and, you know, said goodbye. He told the cab where I was going, and we said goodnight and the cabdriver looks at me and says, "Was that just ... ?" [Laughs] And I just thought that was so delightful, because the cab driver didn't bother Jim at all. He just kind of went with the flow [laughs]. Can you imagine being a cab driver and having some girl get in the cab and have Tony Soprano there? So that was one of those beautiful life moments for me -- and for the cab driver.